Accessibility statement

Maria Gehrels

Physical Geography Research Technician

Maria Gehrels, Physical Geography Research Technician

Early career

Having struggled at school (back in the Pleistocene) as a result of unrecognised dyslexia I never thought University life was for me. I jobbed around for a few years trying many types of low skilled work, but with a burgeoning interest in the environment, found myself on a degree access course at the University of Plymouth. This was rapidly followed by a Degree in Earth Science, when I discovered University life was definitely for me, a Masters of Research in Global Environmental Change, when I developed a love of research, and a PhD in Physical Geography studying ‘The recent volcanic history of the North Island of New Zealand’. As a research student I was supported by an amazing technician who was incredibly knowledgeable, resourceful, and inspiring. She always helped to create a happy, supportive environment in the labs as well as a place where you could get things done. With many hours in those labs, I knew I wanted to be a technician too and use my skills and knowledge to support students and researchers too. It’s a job I now feel very privileged to have.

Time employed at The University of York

I have worked as a part time (0.5FTE) technician in the Department of Environment and Geography since 2013. I’ve seen lots of changes in that time, including a building change, a rapidly expanding department and have met, supported and said farewell to many researchers and students. 

My main specialisms, in my role as research technician, are techniques used to investigate past environments. So that may involve setting up and demonstrating methods used to extract microfossils such as pollen, diatoms, or testate amoebae to examine under the microscope or sampling sediment cores for other sedimentological investigations. I also support the preparation of samples for radiocarbon analysis and prepare pollen samples for analysis by Oxford Archaeology on a consultancy basis. Much of my work involves training PhD and master’s students, undergraduate project students and interns. I also do some jobs for academics when I have the time! Occasionally I manage to escape on some fieldwork. I currently manage two labs (Geography and Microscope) and take great pride in making sure they provide maximum ease of use for researchers. I really enjoy working with researchers on all levels, providing training, problem solving together and supporting their work. I of course love receiving thank you cards (especially the chocolates!) and kind words from students who are moving on but mostly I’m just happy in the knowledge that I have supported them along on their academic journeys.